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Recent attacks show Taliban still a serious threat: experts

KABUL -- Two suicide attacks in two days which killed a police chief and five foreign troops in Afghanistan show the Taliban's ability to land heavy blows without even engaging in direct combat, experts say.

As spring brings warmer weather across the country, the traditional fighting season is getting under way, which Western officials say will provide a litmus test of their strategy in the near ten-year war following a U.S. troop surge.

But experts warn that Friday's killing of the police chief of Kandahar and Saturday's army base blast which left five foreign troops and four Afghans dead again highlight that the Taliban can score points without battlefield gains.

Insurgents appear to have stepped up their campaign against the security forces with at least nine suicide bombings in the past five days.

This comes just three months before foreign troops start handing control of security to Afghan forces in seven safer parts of Afghanistan ahead of a full transition by 2014 which should allow international combat troops to go home.

General Helaluddin Helal, an Afghan military analyst, said he believed that the Taliban had been weakened and, as a result, were now using targeted attacks to try and sow fear among international and Afghan government forces.

“The Taliban are using intelligence and trying to carry out a psychological campaign,” he told AFP.

“They are not capable of any direct fight and they carry out suicide attacks to show the people and the government and its allies that they are strong enough to attack your key people and places.”

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Lieutenant Colonel John Dorrian, added that targeted attacks were one way in which the Taliban were expected to try and claw back lost ground, particularly in the south.

“The insurgents took significant losses in the past year, 2010, and what they will try to do is re-infiltrate those areas,” he said. “One of the ways they will attempt to do this is through assassinations.”

The Taliban frequently tries to infiltrate the Afghan security forces with militants, meaning they can get much closer to high-profile targets than would usually be the case.

Both the killing of Kandahar police chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid and the assault at the Afghan army's eastern headquarters in Laghman province were committed by attackers in Afghan security force uniforms.

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